Each and every day, small businesses compete directly against the big guy and succeed. This is done by changing the rules of the game and competing selectively. Overtime, the small entrepreneurial firm becomes one of the big guys and we forget about their rags to riches story.
At one time, Nike was a start-up operation started by a University of Oregon college track coach Bill Bowerman and his former middle-distance runner. That middle-distance runner was a degreed accountant from the University of Oregon named Phil Knight. Both invested $500 to form a partnership in 1964 and today, Nike is a global athletic manufacturer with $20 billion in sales. At the time, Nike sneakers were totally different from Converse, Keds and traditional sneakers on the market. $20 billion of growth in four decades is pretty impressive and now they are THE global juggernaut in athletic footwear, apparel and sporting goods.
So can a small start-up operation with limited funds compete against Nike and other global operators like Adidas, Reebok, and Russell Athletic? Of course. However, the mouse trap must be unique and compelling.
In 1996, a former University of Maryland football player named Kevin Plank was convinced that a moisture wicking fabric could help regulate the body temperature of athletes better than cotton t-shirts. With $20,000 of his own money and $290,000 in loans, he started his own athletic apparel company from his grandmother’s basement in Washington D.C. With the prototypes that were developed, his first sale was to Georgia Tech and fifteen years later, Kevin’s business does at least $1.4 billion in sales under the name of Under Armour. While I presume that someone like Nike may ultimately acquire Under Armour, Kevin has managed to create an attractive niche in a highly competitive industry.
Other examples that come to mind are Samuel Adams, Whole Foods, and Cirque du Soleil. In each of these cases, these start-ups have figured out ways to create a niche in the market without relying upon discounting their price. In each example, they command an attractive premium and compete with larger competitors with very deep pockets.
With this orientation, you can probably tell that I would NOT recommend that a new accounting firm compete directly with larger, more established accounting firms by targeting medium and large-sized businesses. Here are some examples of how the sole accounting practitioner can win:
- Hire a website development provider that knows how to develop a “branded” website which puts your best foot forward so you can compete with more established accounting firms. Many established accounting firms have websites that suck. The internet is an easy way for small accounting firms to compete effectively. Also, this website must be search engine optimized so it is towards the top of search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing.
- Blog on your website. The blog should be integrated into your website (same domain name). The major search engines will reward you by elevating your firm in the search engines.
- Write a newspaper column – Most local newspapers are struggling financially as the internet has cut holes into their business model. As a result, the editorial departments in most local newspapers are starving for reliable content from someone with your expertise.
- Start a radio program – In smaller markets, radio can be a way demonstrate your expertise and create awareness for your accounting practice. For years, financial planners have been hosting retirement planning call-in shows on the radio. Why not start a small business accounting and tax issue radio program? If Dave Ramsey can talk about getting rid of debt, you have many topics to consider talking about. If you don’t want to commit yourself to hosting a call-in radio show, how about a cooperative approach with a DJ? In one market, we have a client that has created Tax Tuesdays where he is available for one hour each week to answer call-in tax questions or call his office during regular business hours.
If you are willing to create a unique and compelling point of difference like Phil Knight did with Nike, and Kevin Plank did with Under Amour, you too can create a foothold into the market. Be strategic about how you market your practice and then, Just Do It!
A blog can be a powerful part of your online marketing toolkit for your accounting practice. If you want to take an active role in driving more traffic to your accounting firm website, then blogging is for you.
Blogs are magnets for search engines such as Google, and a great way to boost website traffic. With regular posts, informative content and search-engine friendly links, your site will be more likely to be indexed by Google sooner than a website that has offered the same content for years.
Blog What You Know
Many accounting professionals understand the benefits of blogging for their firm, but might be unsure about how to get started.
First and foremost, blog about what you know. Not only will your blogs be easier to write; you want to position yourself as a content expert by giving out the same kinds of advice and thought leadership you give your clients. If you work in tax and/or QuickBooks accounting, then you wouldn’t want to blog about audit. Before you know it, you’ll be seen as an expert and your site will be the go-to source for valuable accounting information.
Here are some additional guidelines to help you blog for more business:
- No technical knowledge is required. You don’t need to be a “techie” or know HTML code to write a blog. You can add pages or articles using such content management software as WordPress, which offers a user-friendly dashboard that lets you add, edit, and publish web pages and posts.
- Get social to make connections. Your readers can leave comments on your posts. This allows you to see who is interested in your services and provides an opportunity to establish a dialogue with potential customers and partners. Make your blog the perfect opener to developing a relationship and a network for future business.
- Write quality content. Once you have a blog set up, it’s time to write. This is the point in which most bloggers are enthusiastic at first about blogging with plans to blog every week or even more often. Reality soon sets in, however, and you may find yourself blogging less often. The best thing to do is decide on a realistic frequency for your blog posts, then set aside the required time to write. Make yourself an appointment to write if you need to. What you don’t want to have happen is a reader becoming disenchanted with your blog because it’s not updated. You’ll lose the reader’s confidence and loyalty.
- Add quality links. Link to other pages on your website whenever it’s appropriate. For example, embedding a link to take the reader to your contact information can generate additional traffic and is just plain good for business.
- Optimize your content. No matter what you’re trying to get out of your blog, it’s always important to optimize your content. Doing so will allow the search engines to put your site in front of the right audience. But, be careful: It’s great to get ranked for keywords and get free website traffic, but it’s also important to keep things interesting. Write your blogs with keywords in mind, but remember to write for your audience as well — and keep it conversational. Keyword phrases of two to three descriptive words are more effective than individual keywords that can be too competitive. For optimum cataloging or indexing by search engines, blog posts should also be at least two-hundred words, if not a bit more.
When it comes to optimizing your business blog, looking at the factors that will be picked up by the search engines is an important first step to increasing traffic to your site. These factors are known as your SEO — or Search Engine Optimization — profile. SEO involves the development of unique and appropriate keyword phrases that best describe your business, such as “Certified Public Accountant” and “tax accounting,” but are only one part of the total optimization equation.
If all of the reasons outlined in this article aren’t enough information to get you blogging for your business, consider the facts. Research done by inbound marketing company HubSpot on how blogging affects the performance of their clients’ websites showed striking results. They sampled a little over 1,500 companies — roughly half of them blogged for business and the other half didn’t. The businesses that blogged had 55% more traffic, nearly double the number of inbound links and over 400% more pages indexed by Google.
That’s reason enough to begin blogging. Soon, you’ll receive more referrals and be able to convert prospects to clients based on your expert opinions.